Have you ever tried to measure happiness? Is this even possible?
In 2010, I was given the opportunity to take part in an NHS project called, ‘Arts into Wellbeing’, which required me to do exactly that!
This fantastic new project enabled target groups to participate in a variety of arts activities, such as dance, music, drama and drawing, for 6 weeks for free. So, I took a leap of faith, put together a proposal and presented it in front of a panel of people from the NHS.
Dancing makes me happy so the focus of my project was on how swing dancing in a sociable atmosphere can help to make us healthier and happier people. I was over the moon when I received a letter telling me that Lindy Jazz was one of the groups selected to take part!
I had different groups of people to work with, from carers and parents with children under the age of 5 to anyone with mild health conditions, and each participant had to fill in a questionnaire to assess their level of happiness before and after the 6-week course I’d provided.
I taught mainly easy jazz steps with some groups taking part in partner dancing. I was able to share the joy of swing music and of dancing to so many people who wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to try it; it was such a great project to take part in.
When the project ended 18 months later, nearly everyone claimed they felt healthier (although ironically when I was interviewed on BBC Look North about the project I had a bad cough and cold) and happier, with two groups of ladies deciding that they’d like to continue! And so began SwingFitness…
The ladies were aged between 55 and 75, enjoyed swing music, doing some movement and meeting up with like-minded people for a cup of tea. They found that learning to dance ticked all these boxes and increasing their fitness & flexibility whilst making friends had a positive impact on their lives – now that’s how you measure happiness!
Five years on there are three SwingFitness groups a week, each lasting one-hour. During this hour we dance through about 18 routines without stopping and although there’s some tuition on movement skills, the main focus is on enjoying the music & dancing. The ladies simply follow my hand signals and silly facial expressions.